LOCKPORT – The Common Council voted Wednesday to seek bids for construction of a railroad platform to serve passengers of the Medina Railroad Museum’s tourist trains.
The platform is to be built on city property at 5 Gooding St., adjoining a track used by the Medina trains. The city will lease access to the property and parking from Hydraulic Race Co., owners of the Lockport Cave underground boat ride, whose new headquarters is next to the property.
Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said the Council will need to vote on the award of the contract. Even though city Planning and Development Director R. Charles Bell called the project “a rush job,” it was unclear that the job could be done in time for tours that the Medina group is planning to operate next month.
Its trains to and from Lockport now use a freight yard in the city’s west end, off Michigan Street, as a terminus. The new platform will bring the service to downtown Lockport.
“For 15 years, there has been a real effort to get the Medina Railroad to locate in downtown Lockport, rather than Michigan Street,” said Thomas Callahan, co-owner of the Lockport Cave.
“This is a huge step forward for the development of downtown, particularly the locks district,” Bell said.
On Oct. 9, as a one-time experiment, the city will offer customers of Medina’s fall leaf tour a mini-tour of the Erie Canal locks area during the train’s turnaround in Lockport.
Heather B. Peck, program manager of Lockport Main Street Inc., set up the tour, using Lockport’s “Step Back in Time Players,” a group of historical re-enactors to show the passengers the locks, the Erie Canal Discovery Center, the new flight of Five Winery, and the businesses on Canal Street.
“We only have an hour with them, but hopefully it’ll be a precursor to other tours,” Peck said.
Callahan said the eventual hope is that trains could run to Lockport from Niagara Falls, bringing some of that city’s millions of visitors.
“This will be the first step toward a tour we want to sell in Niagara Falls,” he said.
The platform is to be paid for with funds from the city’s “bed tax” on hotel and motel bills, and will cost no more than $25,000, Bell said.
“We think it’s a reasonable ceiling. We hope it’ll be less than that,” he said.
Callahan said his firm has spent $3,000 to $4,000 preparing the site and working on a design for the platform with the city and the railroad. The Medina museum’s website lists a schedule of October rides that are supposed to use the Gooding Street platform.